Greg Jones and Troy Letters entered the NCAA Division I wrestling tournament in St. Louis with hopes of making a return trip to the finals.
ON THE MATS
NCAA Division I qualifiers from local colleges (Record and weight class):
Clarion: Peter Derstine (32-9 at 125), Frank Edgar (20-9 at 141), Chris Horning (24-8 at 157), Jeremy Reitz (22-17 at 165), Matt Wilcox (12-12 at 285).
Duquesne: Mike Frank (20-15 at 184), Marc Allemang (30-2 at 285).
Edinboro: Jacob Gray (32-7 at 133), Deonte Penn (27-11 at 149), Matt King (38-1 at 165), Nate Yetzer (34-3 at 174), Alex Clemsen (22-4 at 184), Joe Hennis (25-9 at 285).
Penn State: Adam Smith (27-13 at 125), Josh Moore (40-7 at 133), Matt Storniolo (31-7 at 149), James Woodall (22-13 at 157), Eric Bradley (34-3 at 184), Pat Cummins (34-4 at 285).
Pitt: Ron Tarquinio (25-10 at 141), Matt Kocher (29-11 at 149), Justin Nestor (27-14 at 157), Zach Doll (21-7 at 165), Francis Iorfido (25-9 at 174), Josh Birt (22-8 at 197).
Slippery Rock: Ben Watson (10-23 at 125), Ben Young (21-16 at 149), Brad Cieleski (34-4 at 157), Jason Cardillo (28-12 at 165).
West Virginia: Casey Brewster (16-11 at 125), Joe Clarke (25-8 at 141), Mike Torriero (17-11 at 149), Matt Lebe (28-7 at 157), Zac Fryling (18-12 at 165), Greg Jones (21-0 at 184), Matt Daddino (19-7 at 197).
Other colleges with local with a local NCAA Division I qualifier.
Buffalo: Mark McKnight (32-6 at 125).
Drexel: Nick Kozar (13-6 at 174).
Lehigh: Troy Letters (31-1 at 165).
Jones, a Greensburg Salem High School graduate who is a junior at West Virginia University, won the 174-pound title as a freshman, but failed to place last year at the same weight after posting a 2-2 record.
Letters, a graduate of Shaler High School who is now attending Lehigh University, placed second in the country at 165 pounds last season as a freshman.
"Troy is in a very tough weight class that has no clear cut favorite," Lehigh coach Greg Strobel said. "Any one of the top four seeds are capable of winning the title."
Letters lost in last year's title match to Matt Lackey, who has since graduated from the University of Illinois. Despite being the top returning finisher at 165, Letters (31-1) is seeded second in the 34-man bracket, behind Oklahoma State's Tyrone Lewis (29-1), who finished fifth last year.
"Troy's only loss was to Lewis when we wrestled at Oklahoma State in February," said Strobel, referring to a 6-3 loss. "One mistake cost Troy four points in that bout."
The championships started yesterday at Savvis Center and continued into last night.
Shortly after beating Letters, Lewis lost to Minnesota's Jacob Volkmann (30-4), who placed third last year and is seeded fourth this year.
Edinboro's Matt King, a Connellsville graduate, placed fourth last year after losing to Volkmann in the consolation for third place, but is seeded third in this year's bracket with a 38-1 record. His only loss was to Virginia Tech's Chris Stith, and King avenged that loss in the Eastern Wrestling League title match.
"It's not often that you see the top three seeds with one loss," said Strobel. "All three are having a great year."
Jones is seeded No. 1 at 184 pounds after posting a 21-0 record. Ben Heizer (26-1) of Northern Illinois is seeded No. 2, Jake Rosholt of Oklahoma State (19-3) is No. 3, and Penn State's Eric Bradley (34-3) is No. 4. Rosholt is the defending champion and Heizer finished sixth.
"Greg was trying to defend his title last year, instead of trying to win another title," said Pitt coach Rande Stottlemyer after watching Jones win a third consecutive Eastern Wrestling League title two weeks ago. "He has a different outlook this year and will be tough to beat."
Stottlemyer has six wrestlers entered in the three-day national tournament, including EWL champions Ron Tarquinio and Josh Birt. Tarquinio (25-10) is seeded No. 12 at 141, while Birt (22-8) is unseeded at 197.
"There is no such thing as an easy draw in this tournament," said Stottlemyer, referring to Tarquinio, who had a 1-2 record at nationals last season. "Ron has faced many of the wrestlers seeded in front of him and lost close decisions to all of them, so he's not far behind them."
Tarquinio decisioned Nate Gulosh or Navy, 10-7, in the first round.
Penn State also has six entries, including Bradley, who is among four Nittany Lions who are seeded among the top 12 in their weight class. Pat Cummins (34-4) is No. 2 at 285 after placing fourth last year. Josh Moore (40-7) is No. 6 at 133 after finishing third last year. Matt Storniolo (31-7) is No. 8 at 149. Moore won his first-round match with a pin.
West Virginia has seven entries, including Jones and Jeannette graduate Matt Lebe (28-7), who is seeded No. 9 at 157. Lebe posted a 2-2 record in the same weight class last year.
Edinboro has six entries, with King as its only seeded wrestler. Clarion has five entries, but none are seeded. Slippery Rock has four entries, including South Fayette graduate Jason Cardillo (28-12), who is competing at 165.
Duquesne has two entries and both are from WPIAL schools. Fox Chapel graduate Mike Frank (20-15) is making his NCAA debut at 184, while Bethel Park grad Marc Allemang (30-2) is making his third appearance in the 285-pound weight class.
The other two WPIAL wrestlers who have qualified are: South Fayette graduate Mark McKnight (32-6), a 125-pound entry from the University of Buffalo; and Derry Area's Nick Kozar (13-6), who is entered at 174 for Drexel University.